Tag Archive for theater

As Theater Department Chair, Conlin Says Students Leave Strengthened to Generate New Work

Kathleen Conlin, the Frank B. Weeks Visiting Professor of Theater—here, behind the scenes with stage lights—values a rich mix of visiting professionals and continuing faculty, which results in a stimulating “creative collision.”

The Theater Department has begun fall semester with a new chair who combines an impressive list of creative accomplishments with deep and varied experience as an academic administrator.

Kathleen Conlin, Frank B. Weeks Visiting Professor of Theater, has held tenured faculty positions at the University of Texas at Austin, Ohio State University, and the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana. While juggling the varied demands of an academic career, she also served for 22 seasons as associate artistic director and stage director at the Utah Shakespeare Theater.

“I love being around young people who are not narrowly defined and are actively working to discover who they are and who they are in society,” she says. “To be able to do that through an arts lens is spectacular.”

Alumnae Collaborate on Play that Debuts Aug. 10 in NYC

Five alumnae and one student are collaborating on a play that will debut Aug. 10-13 in New York City.

Resistance, written by May Treuhaft-Ali ’17 and directed by Maia Nelles-Sager ’17, is about Libby, a 15-year-old girl from Queens struggling with her weight. Everyone in her life from her mother to her “specialist” is trying to help her lose weight, but none of them seem to understand the underlying issue. When her favorite spin teacher is fired, Libby discovers that violent revenge fantasies makes her feel better. But every time she has a violent revenge fantasy, she gains 16 pounds.

“Resistance touches on themes such as weight-loss culture, female relationships, and gentrification. The cast is entirely female-identifying, as is the production team,” said Nelles-Sager, a film and theater double major.

Nelles-Sager and Treuhaft-Ali are assisted by set designer Nola Werlinich ’17; properties designer and assistant set designer Jess Cummings ’17; graphic designer Caitlin Chan ’17; and sound designer Hope Fourie ’19. At Wesleyan, Nelles-Sager directed four shows with Second Stage and wrote a playwriting thesis; Treuhaft-Ali completed a directing thesis with the Theater Department.

Resistance will be performed at the Wild Project, a theater, film, music, and visual arts venue in New York’s East Village. Showtimes are at 8 p.m. Aug. 10-12 and at 2 p.m. Aug. 12-13. Tickets are available for purchase online.

Jenkins Interviewed on BBC About New Play ‘Islands’

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins was a guest on the BBC program “Sunday” to discuss his new play, “Islands: The Lost History of the Treaty That Changed the World.” The play, commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Treaty of Breda in which the Dutch ceded Manhattan in exchange for the tiny spice island of Rhun, premiered April 21 and 22 at Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts.

Jenkins’ interview begins about four-and-a-half minutes in. Or, on the BBC page, scroll down and select the “Islands” chapter.

“We’re performing the actual text of the 1667 Treaty of Breda. In this treaty, if you look closely at the words, you’ll see that the English and the Dutch were ending their war,” said Jenkins told the BBC.

“As part of the agreement, they were also trying to erase from history all the awful things that they had done during the war. And among those awful things were the massacre of the indigenous Muslim population of the island of Rhun. And we have the Dutch character singing the words of the treaty, and then the indigenous characters question that. […] Those murders did occur and we can’t forget that. There’s a back and forth dialogue between the colonial masters and the indigenous victims of colonialism.”

Jenkins describes visiting Rhun. In the 17th century, Rhun was as valuable as Manhattan because it was the world’s primary source of nutmeg which, at the time, was worth its weight in gold. They met nutmeg farmers and were shown the nutmeg trees, which are still there.

The radio feature includes Wesleyan students singing songs written for the play by John Spencer Camp Professor of Music Neely Bruce and Artist-in-Residence in Music I. Harjito.

Brazilian Play on Cannibalism, Translated by Jackson, to Make American Debut

Elizabeth Jackson

Elizabeth Jackson

A Brazilian play, translated by Wesleyan’s Elizabeth Jackson, will make its American premiere at The Yale Cabaret in early February.

“The Meal: Dramatic Essays on Cannibalism” tells three stories about people consuming — and being consumed. This poetic piece by Newton Moreno, one of Brazil’s leading contemporary playwrights, was translated into English by Jackson, adjunct associate professor of Portuguese for Wesleyan’s Romance Languages and Literatures Department.

Jackson’s translation of “The Meal” first appeared in Theater, Yale’s journal of criticism, plays, and reportage (Vol. 45 No. 2, 2015). “The Meal” is one of four texts by different playwrights that Jackson translated for the journal. In addition, Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, professor of theater, co-edited this special issue on contemporary Brazilian plays.

“The Meal” will be performed at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Feb. 2-4 at The Yale Cabaret. Tickets can be purchased online.

Jenkins on the Life and Legacy of Dario Fo and Franca Rame

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater and scholar on the life and work of the late Italian artist, Dario Fo, has the pleasure of honoring the legacy of Dario Fo and his wife, Franca Rame.

On Oct. 13 Italian actor/playwright/director/painter/designer/activist/Nobel Laureate Dario Fo died at the age of 90. His wife, Franca Rame a actress/playwright/activist passed away in 2013. Together, they were symbols of hope, as their work, based in satirical theater, served as an inspiration for activist and theater makers around the world. “… Fo’s plays gave voice to his times and continue to live most fully in the moment of performance,” Jenkins states.

Serving as the chief American translator for the written and on-stage performances of Fo and Rame, Jenkins has worked with the couple since the 1980’s and has now become one of the pre-eminent scholars on their work. In an article Jenkins wrote on the life of Dario Fo and his wife, published in the American Theatre, Jenkins highlights Fo’s creative process and the significance it had on the times. He remembers watching Fo create new work by “first making drawings, then putting the drawings into motion, recreating them through gesture while improvising a text for an audience. Only then would he put the script on paper making his words born out of vibrant images and physical actions.”  Jenkins job was to capture that raw kinetic energy in his on-stage translations, and he recalls that every time, he was “possessed by his (Fo’s) language, allowing himself to be taken over entirely by the rhythmic drive of his sentences.”

This also was a topic of conversation in Middletown’s effort to commemorate Fo’s legacy. Jenkins was a guest speaker at “The Politics of Laughter: A Tribute to Dario Fo and Franca Rame,” held at the Buttonwood Tree in Middletown on Dec. 8.

Jenkins Stages Play in Florentine Prison

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, recently completed a collaboration with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights in Florence, Italy. The center asked Jenkins to stage a play in a Florentine prison on the theme of human rights.

The play, which was based on Dante Aligheri’s 14,000 line epic poem, “The Divine Comedy,” was performed on July 14 and featured Coro Galilei, a choir that specializes in Gregorian chants, and actors from a local prison. The script consisted of texts written by the prisoners on the theme of justice intertwined with fragments from the “Divine Comedy” and interviews with human rights activists from around the world.

“Dante’s Inferno” is the most famous section of “The Divine Comedy” and is based on Dante’s real life in 14th century Italy, where he was a city official, diplomatic negotiator, and a man who dared to cross the Pope. Dante also was a convict and convicted of crimes, and Jenkins uses Dante to connect with incarcerated men and women.

“Dante was condemned to death, but we do not remember him as a convict,” Jenkins told the audience at Sollicciano prison in his prologue to the play. “We remember him as writer and philosopher who denounced the lack of justice in his society. After having seen our play, we hope you will remember the performers, not as convicts, but as writers whose words are born from the wisdom of experience, as Dante said, ‘Men of great value…. Suspended in this limbo.'”

Jenkins has already taught “Dante’s Inferno” and acting to inmates in Connecticut and Indonesia. Jenkins encourages incarcerated men and women to make connections between their own life stories and the experiences of the characters in classics like “Dante’s Inferno.” Their thoughts are used to create play scripts that are performed inside a prison. Wesleyan students also perform the scripts at other colleges and in the community, and engage in discussions about issues related to reforming the country’s criminal justice system.

7 Faculty Promoted, 4 Awarded Tenure

In its recent meeting, the Board of Trustees conferred tenure on four faculty members. They are Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, Professor of African American Studies Kali Gross, Associate Professor of English and American Studies Amy Tang, and Associate Professor of Chemistry Erika Taylor. They join eight other faculty members who were awarded tenure earlier this spring.

One faculty member, Louise Neary, was promoted to adjunct associate professor of Spanish.

In addition, six faculty members are being promoted to full professor:

J. Kehaulani Kauanui, professor of American Studies and anthropology
Matthew Kurtz, professor of psychology
Cecilia Miller, professor of history
Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, professor of theater
Andrea Patalano, professor of psychology
Michael Singer, professor of biology

Brief descriptions of their research and teaching appear below:

Associate Professor Fowler specializes in political communication and directs the Wesleyan Media project, which tracks and analyzes all political ads aired on broadcast television in real-time during elections. Her work on local coverage of politics and policy has been published in political science, communication, law/policy, and medical journals. Most recently, she co-authored Political Advertising in the United States (Westview Press, 2016). Professor Fowler teaches courses on American Government and Politics; Media and Politics; Campaigns and Elections; and Polls, Politics and Public Opinion.

Professor Gross is a scholar of African American history whose research concentrates on black women’s experiences in the United States criminal justice system between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her book, Hannah Mary Tabbs and the Disembodied Torso: A Tale of Race, Sex, and Violence in America (Oxford University Press, 2016), explores a crime and trial in 1887 against broader evidence of biased police treatment of black suspects as well as violence within the black community. Professor Gross will offer courses on race, gender and justice and Black Women’s Studies.

Professor Kauanui’s research lies in the fields of comparative colonialisms, indigenous politics, critical racial studies, and anarchist studies. Her book, The Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty (Duke University Press, due in 2017), explores the cultural and legal politics of the contemporary Hawaiian nationalist movement in relation to land, gender, and sexuality. Professor Kauanui teaches courses on Colonialism and Its Consequences; Race and Citizenship; United States in the Pacific Islands; Hawai’i: Myths and Realities; Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown; and Anarchy in America: From Haymarket to Occupy Wall Street.

Professor Kurtz’s research seeks to clarify the cognitive and social impairments associated with schizophrenia, to develop and assess behavioral treatments for these impairments, and to critically evaluate the history and current status of ideas regarding treatment of the severely mentally ill. He has received significant grant support from the NIH, and has received a Fulbright-Nehru U.S. Scholar Award for Academic and Professional Excellence. He offers courses on Schizophrenia and Its Treatment, Clinical Neuropsychology, Statistics, and Behavioral Neurobiology.

Professor Miller is a European intellectual historian with a focus on the long eighteenth century. Her recent book, Enlightenment and Political Fiction: The Everyday Intellectual (Routledge, 2016), examines five works of fiction to argue that the accessibility of political fiction in the eighteenth century made it possible for any reader to enter into the intellectual debates of the time and that ideas attributed to philosophers and political and economic theorists of the Enlightenment actually appeared first in works of fiction. She offers courses on European Intellectual History, Political Fiction, Theories of Society, and Contemporary Europe.

Professor Tatinge Nascimento is a theater artist and scholar with a special interest in experimental performance and Brazilian contemporary theater. She has performed and published internationally, and most recently is the author of a book manuscript, The Contemporary Performances of Brazil’s Post-Dictatorship Generation, under review with Palgrave Macmillan for the series Contemporary Performance InterActions. At Wesleyan she directs main stage productions and teaches courses on acting, theory, and performance studies.

Adjunct Associate Professor Neary teaches beginning and intermediate Spanish. She is currently collaborating with a colleague on an online Spanish course for the general public, titled Wespañol, and with McGraw Hill on a test bank project for an elementary Spanish language textbook. She has served as head of Spanish, has chaired the Romance Languages and Literatures Honors Committee, and has served on the Language Resources Center Faculty Committee.

Professor Patalano is a cognitive scientist whose research focuses on mental and neural processes involved in human reasoning, judgment, and decision making. Her lines of research address indecisiveness and decision deferral, clinical and neural correlates of discounting, numeracy and choice behavior, and the role of categories in thought. She teaches courses on Cognitive Psychology, Psychological Statistics, Decision Making, and Concepts and Categories.

Professor Singer is an evolutionary ecologist whose research focuses on the plant-feeding habits of caterpillars in the context of threats from predators and parasites of caterpillars. He uses this research focus to inform issues of broad biological interest, such as animal medication, dietary specialization, dynamics of ecological networks, and evolutionary diversification. He teaches courses on Ecology, Conservation Biology, Evolutionary Biology, and Plant-Animal Interactions.

Professor Tang’s research focuses on the relationship between aesthetic form and politics in Asian American literature and theory. Her first book, Repetition and Race: Asian American Literature After Multiculturalism (Oxford University Press, 2016), explores how Asian American writers use structures of repetition to register, and creatively inhabit, the impasses generated by multiculturalism’s politics of identity and recognition. She teaches courses on Asian American Literature, Afro-Asian Intersections, and Literary and Cultural Theory.

Associate Professor Taylor’s multidisciplinary research investigates problems at the intersection of biology and chemistry. Her work strives to advance medicine and environmental sustainability with two long-term goals – developing bacterial enzyme inhibitors and other small molecules with medicinal applications, and engineering microorganisms to improve the efficiency of biomass to biofuel conversion. Professor Taylor has received significant grant support from both the NIH and the Department of Energy, enabling numerous impactful publications in her field. She offers courses in Organic Chemistry, Environmental Chemistry, Biological Chemistry, and Biomedicinal Chemistry.

“Wes Out-Loud” Theater Performance Takes Audience on Site-Specific Auditory Journey

During the "Wes Out-Loud" performance, audience members wore wireless headsets to listen to recorded stories of place created for various sites on campus.

During the “Wes Out-Loud” performance, audience members wore wireless headsets to listen to recorded stories of place created for various sites on campus.

The Theater Department presented “Wes Out-Loud: Stories of Place” April 28 on campus.

“Wes Out-Loud: Stories of Place” is a site-specific auditory journey conceived and created for the Wesleyan campus through a collaboration between theater students and Assistant Professor of Theater Marcela Oteíza. “Wes Out-Loud” invited the audience to experience Wesleyan as a scenographic space by inserting new narratives into everyday sites.

The juxtaposition of place and stories presented the richness and diversity of the students on campus and promoted inclusiveness.

Audience members wore wireless headsets to listen to the recorded stories of place created for each site. The performance, led by Wesleyan students, covered a one-and-a-half mile loop through campus.

The journey includes stories of current students who wrote a piece specific to Wesleyan and the space that Wesleyan occupies.

“Wesleyan is an intensely personal space to me. It is the place where I have experienced the most growth and had the most memorable experiences of my life thus far. Given its significance, the memories of Wesleyan are positive, negative, and everywhere in between,” said collaborator Jess Cummings ’17. “I wanted to focus on disparities between positive and negative, especially those which I often hide. I also wanted to emphasize the way that these memories take on a spatiality and transform the spaces which the original events occurred in. I hope that listening to my story, as well as everyone else’s, will allow members of our Wesleyan community and beyond to question their relationships to the spaces they inhabit everyday and recognize the lasting effects that memory and space leave on their lives.”

“Wes Out-Loud” was recorded with a binaural, 3D-surround-sound system — a method that emulates the workings of human auditory perception, explained Marcela Oteíza. “Utilizing an actual scale model of left and right ears, the recording system works with the premise that it is the architecture of our anatomy that dictates how we understand the sounds we hear,” she said.

Additional performances will take place on April 29, April 30 and May 1.

RL&L Presents Two Evenings of Theater

Italian Play (4)Two evenings of theater will be presented by the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures this month. Both events are free and open to the public and will take place at the department’s common room at 300 High Street in Middletown, Conn.

Students from French 281 and Theater 291 will present three plays in French on Dec. 9 at 6 p.m.: “Tu honoreras ton père et ta mère”  or “You Will Honor Your Father and Mother,” by Samira Sedira; “Ah! La belle vie” or “Oh! The Good Life,” by Anne Giafferi; and “First Lady,” by Sedef Ecer. A reception will follow. The evening is sponsored by the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, the Thomas and Catharine McMahon Fund, and the Center for Pedagogical Innovation.

Non tutti i ladri vengono per nuocere” or “The Virtuous Burglar,” by Dario Fo, will be performed entirely in Italian, with a plot summary in English, on Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. A reception will follow. The play is directed by Hannah Skopicki ’18, stage managed by Ryan Dobrin ’18, and produced by Camilla Zamboni. The evening is sponsored by the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures and the Thomas and Catharine McMahon Fund.

Jenkins Celebrates Indonesia’s Cultural, Linguistic Diversity in International Simulcast

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater, will participate in an international simulcast on Nov. 27 to celebrate Balinese language and Indonesia’s cultural and linguistic diversity.

The simulcast will take place at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington where Jenkins will be helping to celebrate Saraswati Day by reading from his new book, Saraswati in Bali. Saraswati Day is the Balinese day set aside for honoring wisdom, knowledge and culture.

The celebration will be streamed simultaneously to Indonesian diplomatic missions in New York, Tokyo, Sweden, The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and Australia.

The program also will include live simulcasts of a reading of a Balinese poem; greetings from Indonesian Ambassadors to the participating countries; introductory remarks from Professor Gabriela Perez Baez, director of Recovering Voices, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History; a presentation of new books in Balinese; and dance, music and singing performances.

Jenkins will also be speaking about his book at the Indonesian Consulate in New York on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at an event featuring an exhibition of the Balinese paintings related to Saraswati analyzed in his text. To register for the free event, e-mail information@indonesianewyork.org.

Weild Directs New Musical, Indian Joe

indianjoeA new musical, directed by visiting associate professor of theater Kim Weild, runs Oct. 22-Nov. 15 at the Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, Conn.

Inspired by true events, Indian Joe tells the unlikely story of a homeless Native American and a Texas beauty queen who never should have been friends. He’s looking for a fight. She’s looking for a cause. As they stumble toward friendship, both ultimately overcome fear and prejudice to discover that there’s more to family than what you see. From the streets of Waco, Texas to the streets of New York City, it’s a uniquely American story with a progressive Americana beat.

Elizabeth A. Davis will play the character Liz. Davis received a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for the hit Broadway production of Once.

At Wesleyan, Weild teaches Introduction to Directing, Directed Experiences in Acting and Performance Practice A.

For more information on the musical, see this Middletown Press article or this Broadwayworld.com feature.

Ron Jenkins Discusses Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins participated in a discussion on WNPR’s The Colin McEnroe Show about Dante Aligheri’s 14,000 line epic poem, “The Divine Comedy,” of which “Dante’s Inferno” is the most famous section. This adventure story is based on Dante’s real life in 14th century Italy, where he was a city official, diplomatic negotiator, and a man who dared to cross the Pope. Jenkins has taught Dante at Wesleyan and in prison courses.

“I discovered that I could learn a lot about Dante by teaching it in prison. I brought my Wesleyan students and my Yale students into prison to work with him,” said Jenkins. “I discovered that a lot of stereotypes are shattered by going into a prison with a text like that because although the commonplace understanding of Dante is a writer who writes about hell and awful, horrible things, the men in prison immediately understood that this was a poem about hope. They immediately identified with Dante. One of the reasons they identified with Dante is he was not only in exile, but he was a convict. He was convicted of crimes, that’s why he was put in exile. As soon as men in prison hear that, they pay attention more closely. […] They identify with Dante’s journey through hell, through purgatory, to a better place, and they can connect to that. They latch onto the hope that’s in Dante’s poem. […] They want to think about where they can go when they leave prison, if they can leave prison, or where they can go spiritually even if they can never leave prison.”